Process – Musing on the act of creating

Where does one start? A blank sheet of paper?

It is often romanticised how the sculptor “sees” his or her work within the stone; the wood, and in my case, the glass before starting. The Afrikaans word for sculptor is ”beeldhouer”, literary meaning “honer of an image”.

Words have their own strengths and history – which proposes a theme for later lamenting and research…

Back to the act of sculpting, to carve, shape and mould something of meaning from the seemingly mundane – an act of creation.

Our species has been able to project an abstract ability, to imbue recognition of ourselves in inanimate objects; to recognise a human face in a rock, for example. We carved mammoth tusks, stone, wood, bones as extensions of our inner being; translating thoughts and beliefs in non-verbal fashion through our hands and eyes into earthly materials.

Apart from the actual object, the tangible result of labour, there is the activity, that moment where cognitive thought is translated through the hands into a tangible trope.

I like to call it the process.

Large optical crystal blank
Large optical crystal blank

How does the process begin? Well, to tell a story one needs to know a language, know and understand the “words” to form a coherent narrative.

Language in this instance is a metaphor for technique, alluding to certain skills such as to carve, mould and assemble.

This “language” I refer to is not the same as rigid skill or craftsmanship used to construct a house or table per se, but rather the vernacular which is borne from an urge to manifest that which is intangible; converting abstract thoughts of love, hate, fear into a physical object.

The power of this process transcends language, culture and race. It touches on our universal commonality.

We do not have to agree and love all of it and often the result of our creative labours is just plain shit. Luckily human tenacity pushes the boundaries continuously, we learn from failure, develop our skills and progress to further articulate our inner being into art, honest original art.

”Originality” traces its origins back to one Greek word, poesis, which Plato and others used to mean ‘something where before there was nothing’. Originality is a marker for time, it denotes the sudden appearance of something where before there was nothing…”1

First there was a blank sheet of paper. Carte blanche.

Then came the pencil. A mark is made. The loop starts… a thought is brought to light, made physical. The image enters your eye, mingles with the idea and translates into electrical impulses back down the arm, into the hand holding the pencil, marking the paper. Looping, looping back and forth, understanding the idea better with every line.

Once a cognitive understanding through line on paper is reached, physical work starts, translating the drawn “map” into the physical object – cutting, grinding and shaping a chunk of glass towards its destination.

It is during these hours where all experience of previous journeys (technique, failure, success) congeal. One enters an almost meditative state where tacit knowledge guides your actions with resolute confidence. Not only are you mumbling a “language” then but sing aloud, capturing the passion and melody in the sculpture you are creating!

Process is fundamentally important. It is the path the creator follows from which the actual creative thing is born. The process is how we create. It’s the journey which awards meaning to making and, finally, the resulting object, painting or sculpture.

“Everything that is carved away, like in stone or wood, does not come back, its gone. So, that means that every decision you take is irreversible, which I find very comfortable.” – Peter Bremers 2

  1. The Craftsman by Richard Sennett, p.70
  2. From a video interview with Peter Bremers on his exhibition, Looking Beyond The Mirror at Fort Wayne Museum.

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